“While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, Cold and heat, Winter and summer, and day and night Shall not cease.” Genesis 8:22
“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. 9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Galatians 6:7-9
Harvest is the season when ripened crops or fruits are gathered. It is usually a product of our sowing. This is a principle we find throughout Scripture, that whenever there’s a harvest, there must have been a planting. In another sense, harvest also means ‘result’ or ‘consequence.’
Normally, in harvest, we reap the kind, quality and quantity of what we have sown. That’s why Paul admonished the Corinthian church, “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” (2 Corinthians 9:6). It is also true that often at harvest, the yield tends to be more than what was planted. For instance, a cob of corn can yield a bag weighing several kilos.
There are situations where a person may be experiencing harvest in one area of life and not in another. Harvest also can be progressive. For instance, in the Parable of the Sower Jesus spoke about the soil that yielded “… some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.” (Mark 4:20). We should all desire to have capacity for maximum yield.
FOUR DIMENSIONS OF THE HARVEST
Generally, in Scriptures we observe four dimensions of harvest:
1. First, harvest is a universal principle instituted by God. After the flood, God declared that: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest…shall not cease” (Gen. 8:22). Later we read, “Then Isaac sowed in that land, and reaped in the same year a hundredfold; and the Lord blessed him.” (Genesis 26:12). This principle will subsist as long as the earth exists.
2. Secondly, harvest is a product of our actions, good or bad: “Whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Gal. 6:7). We can choose our actions but we can’t choose the consequences.
3. Thirdly, Jesus saw the world as a field and people as ripened souls for harvest: “I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest” (John 4:35. Also see Rev 14:15). This is the preeminent view of the harvest that we find in the New Testament.
4. Finally, harvest is symbolic of a time of judgment: “The harvest is the end of the age” (Matt. 13:39). This imagery of the harvest can also be found in several places in the Old Testament, e.g., Jeremiah 51:33; Hosea 6:11; Joel 3:13.
PROCESS OF THE HARVEST
Jesus spoke a parable that explains the process of the harvest. “And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, 27 and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. 28 For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” (Mark 4:26-29). When a seed is planted in the soil it goes through a process that culminates in the harvest. While the process is on, the farmer has to wait and persevere until the harvest season. The farmer can only determine what he sows but has no control over the harvest. He does not know how that seed will one day produce a harvest.
In this parable Jesus showed three stages in the harvest process. First, the blade appears; secondly the head is seen; then finally the full grain in the head. The blade is a token to encourage the farmer that something is happening to his seed. Some people have laboured for so long but all they can see now is the blade. They shouldn’t give up because the appearance of the blade is an indication that the full grain will surely come. Jesus called it the ‘due season.’
There is a due season for harvest. There is “A time to plant and a time to harvest.” (Ecclesiastes 3:2). Due season is the ‘kairos moment,’ God’s appointed time to act. We need to be sensitive and connect to this season when it comes and not be like the Jews of the first century who missed their opportunity. They missed their time of visitation. (Luke 19:41-44). Rather, we should be like “… the sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do …” (1 Chronicles 12:32).
Harvest season requires as much labour as the time of sowing, only that this time it is with joy (Isaiah 9:3). It’s not time to be passive but to be actively engaged in reaping, whether it is souls or other blessings that are due. Some harvests happen within a window of time. If we miss it then we may have to wait for a very long time for another opportunity.
When a person’s season is due, God causes seeds sown in the past, labours expended and sacrifices made to rebound to a bountiful harvest. Israel laboured under Egyptian oppression for several generations but in one night, God made the enemy pay back all the arrears. “Now the children of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, and they had asked from the Egyptians articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing. 36 And the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they granted them what they requested. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.” (Exodus 12:35-36). It was their due season.
HARVESTING BY MERCY
Though the law of “seedtime and harvest” is immutable, yet sometimes mercy can cause a person to harvest where he has not sowed or where others have planted. He may not be qualified to harvest but God gives it to him anyway. Jesus implied this when He said “For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.” ‘ (John 4:37-38).
A church had existed in a neighbourhood for a long time. During that period, the pastor and members went from house to house preaching the Gospel, did charity work in the community and showed exemplary Christian character among the people. Yet, only a few of them responded to the Gospel and even fewer joined the church. The denomination to which the church belonged had to close down the branch because they felt it was not viable.
But less than a year later, another church opened in the neighbourhood. Within one year the church was full. There was a huge harvest of souls from that community. The new pastor may consider himself a success but actually he was reaping the labours of another. God would know how to apportion reward at the end.
Today, some children are reaping a harvest, not because of what they have done but because of the good seeds their parents had planted. It is a fact in life that there are times when God allows one generation to sow but another generation comes along to reap the harvest.
Again, we see another principle in the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16). Jesus talked about a landowner who went out at different times to hire workers. The first set was hired very early in the morning and they agreed to be paid a denarius each, which was the standard pay for a day’s labour in that day. The landowner also went out at 9 am; 12 noon and 3 pm to bring in more workers into his vineyard. Finally, he went out at 5 pm and still found those who up till that moment hadn’t been hired but were hopeful that someone would come for them. They too were hired just at the nick of time.
When it was pay time, those who came earlier were surprised and angry that the man who worked only for one hour received the same pay as they who had borne the heat of the day. The landowner replied them: “Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?” The landowner said these last labourers are getting a pay because he is good. Their reward was not based on what they had earned but the sovereignty and generosity of the landowner. This obviously gives us a peek into the mind of our Father. His mercy does not permit Him to always deal with us as we deserve.
REAPING WHAT JESUS HAS SOWED
If one person can sow and another reap then there is a lot that the church is yet to reap of what Jesus had sowed. People often boast about the price they have paid in life, but how about the huge price that Jesus paid on the cross? How much of Jesus’ sowing are we harvesting? His death was a seed. He Himself referred to His death as a grain of wheat falling to the ground (John 12:24). His death brought redemption, eternal life, peace, healing, etc. These are areas that we can continue to harvest through faith. Jesus laboured, but we can enter into His labour, we can reap the harvest, and the greatest harvest is that of souls. In this season, may God enable us to harvest in all dimensions.